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By Colleen Quinn


STATE HOUSE — Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly Managing Editor David Frank is a lot more than a good writer; he is an excellent trial attorney, his colleagues told the Governor’s Council during his confirmation hearing to become a district court judge.

Frank has extensive experience in courtrooms, from handling homicide and drug cases as a prosecutor, to working on the defense team in a high-profile murder case that led to changes in state law around juveniles being transferred to Superior Court for trial, according to Frank.

Gov. Deval Patrick has nominated Frank for a seat on the Concord District Court.

Colleagues invited to testify at Wednesday’s confirmation hearing described him as one of the best trial attorneys they have worked with.

Chelsea District Court Judge Matthew Machera said many people know Frank as a writer. “I know Dave as a trial lawyer. He is one of the best trial lawyers I have known,” Machera said.

As a young prosecutor, Frank was assigned to “Area B3” in Mattapan, which is one of the most violent crime areas in the city, Machera said. In addition to working all day, Frank was available to the police officers at night, Machera said.

Frank breezed through his confirmation hearing before the council, receiving praise from several council members for his experience and work as a legal commentator. Many on the council said they planned to vote his in favor.

“When you speak people listen,” Councilor Marilyn Devaney said.

Frank said he knew for a while he wanted to be a judge. By 2012-2013, he thought he had enough experience to apply to the bench.

While editing Lawyer’s Weekly, Frank, 43, maintains a private practice handling criminal cases in district and juvenile courts. He is also a frequent news commentator on high-profile cases. A 22-time marathon runner, Frank has also broadcast sports events.

From 2002 to 2005, Frank was an assistant district attorney in Suffolk County prosecuting gang members for felony offenses. He was a member of a team that responded to all homicides and suspicious deaths in Suffolk County. Prior to working in Suffolk County, Frank was a prosecutor in Bristol County, where he was the lead prosecutor for civil rights and hate crimes.

While working at the private Boston law firm Launie & Howard, Frank was a part of the defense team for 15-year-old Eddie O’Brien, who in 1995 was charged with murdering his neighbor Janet Downing in her Somerville home. Frank, who was just starting his legal career, said he learned a lot from the case.

“The O’Brien case changed the way juveniles can be charged and tried in court,” Frank said, adding juvenile case law is extremely complicated.

O’Brien was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole for stabbing Downing 98 times. A recent state Supreme Judicial Court decision striking down juvenile life sentences without parole now makes O’Brien eligible for a parole hearing, according to Frank.

Councilor Terrence Kennedy said he has known Frank for a long time, and described him as a “great lawyer.” He said he would vote in his favor.

Councilor Christopher Iannella said Frank has had an outstanding career, working in private practice, as a prosecutor, and editor at Lawyers Weekly. “Again, outstanding appointment by the governor, and I would be happy to support you when your nomination comes before us next week,” Iannella said.

Frank received his bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and his law degree from Boston University School of Law.

Frank was asked few questions by council members. In answer to one question, he said he does not like mandatory minimum sentences. Mandatory minimum sentences take discretion away from people in the courts, he said.

Frank said he would not have a bent one way or another in sentencing. He would want to hear from the defense lawyer and the prosecutor.

“If there are addiction issues, I would want to know about them. I think if a judge doesn’t ask those kinds of questions, he or she is not doing their job,” he said.

He said he would use his common sense, temperament, and experience as a judge, adding he has represented clients with mental health and drug addiction problems. Addicts cannot easily listen to a judge’s order to stay sober, and for someone suffering from an addiction it is much more complicated, he said.

“If someone is suffering from addiction, they are not choosing to reuse because they want to thumb their noses at the court,” Frank said.

“If I didn’t take that into account when I had a case before me, again I really wouldn’t be doing my job,” he said.

Councilor Robert Jubinville said he is pleased with Frank’s understanding of drug addiction, and wishes there were more judges with the same understanding.

Councilor Jennie Caissie asked him about his experience with restraining orders in district court. “I understand the 209A statute has value and is important when it is used properly,” he said.

Frank said, unfortunately, there are many cases where it is misused. He represented a father whose spouse tried to use a restraining order in criminal court to “get a leg up” in probate court. Ultimately, Frank was able to convince the criminal court judge to send the matter to the probate court.

“Unfortunately that is not unique,” he said. “Those kinds of things do happen.”